Homecoming 2017

 

As I come to the end of my 14th year as pastor of this wonderful church. Sometimes I sit and cannot believe it has already been 14 years. I have seen a lot during this time in my life. Babies growing in to teenagers, teenagers into young adults (some married with their own babies now), young adults move into their midlives (some becoming grandparents, me included), and I have stood over caskets of those who have died. I have learned a lot from that first service I preached in September of 2003 and I continue to learn.
I thank the good Lord for all that He has done, is doing, and will continue to do until He calls His church home. One thing I want to reiterate to the church is, God is not done with us and He has a work for us to join Him in doing. No matter what stage of life you are in, God has something for you to still be doing in His fields where people need to hear the gospel. Atlantic Beach has well over 15,000 residents and if statistics are correct, 85 % of them are not affiliated with any church. That equates to 12,750 unchurch people in our city. Let that sink in for just a moment.
Church we must get outside of the walls of our building and meet our neighbors. I have said this may times and it still rings true today, “Just because the church is here, does not mean that people will flock in, they are wanting us to invite them.” I pray we will take our mission about the Great Commission very seriously. There is an old hymnal that says:
When in the better land, before the bar we stand
How deeply grieved our souls will be
If any lost one there, should cry in deep despair
You never mentioned him to me

O let us spread the word, where-eer it may be heard
Help groping souls the light to see
That yonder none may say, you showed me not the way
You never mentioned him to me

A few sweet words may guide, a lost one to his side
Or turn sad eyes on Calvary
So work as days go by, that yonder none may cry
You never mentioned him to me

Chorus
You never mentioned him to me
You helped me the light to see
You met me day by day and knew I was a-stray
You never mentioned him to me”

May this not be said of us, let us work for the night is coming, when our work will be done. But until then, let us be in the field and tell everyone the great news of Jesus Christ

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All In

“I am all in.”  You have probably heard that before at some point in your life.  I write this today to tell you all that I am 100 % all in when it comes to my walk with God, my life on mission for Jesus, and as the shepherd of the flock God has given me at First Baptist Church  Atlantic Beach.

In September of 2003, this church looked to me to lead them into the future for the good of the kingdom of God.  I was 39 years old at the time, very little seminary training, no pastoral experience, but I had been mentored by a great man of God.  But there were things against me that only time would overcome.  My son would graduate high school in 2004 and my daughter would graduate in 2007.  That would put me at 43 years old and I would notch 4 years of pastoral experience in my belt.  Seeing how the average tenure of a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention was 3.5 years, I could feel the “un-asked” question of “will he leave us after his daughter graduates” in the air.  Honestly, I figured they would simply tolerate me until 2007 and then kindly ask me to move on as they searched for a new man to lead them for the future.

A lot has happened in 14 years.  People joined, people left, people came back after leaving, some have never stepped back inside the doors.  People loved on me, people yelled at me and cursed me.  I have been praised and pummeled, lifted up and also let down.  But, looking back, I know I am not the “lone stranger” in any of this.  Sit with any pastor and you will hear this story.  Read the Bible and it plays out before you from Genesis to Revelation (especially in the life of Jesus).  I have seen the lean years of financial burdens on the church and I have seen God open the windows of Heaven and pour out a blessing that we had no room to receive it.  I have watched people grow in their faith and seen people turn away from God all together.  I have even struggled with my own faith, battled through illnesses in my life and the death of my mother.  Through all of that I am here to tell you, I Am All In.  God is so good!

I love this church and the people in it, and we have a wide variety of people here that worship together.  I love what God is doing in my life and my desire is to share that with you all in order to encourage you each and every day.  I love that God is not done with First Baptist Church  Atlantic Beach, as a matter of fact, I believe He is about to do something extremely big and God sized that all we can do is walk by faith right alongside Him.  My desire is to see each member, every guest, go away from our services knowing that the Holy Spirit was upon them and speaking into their life.  My desire is for leaders to be raised up to carry the torch long after I am gone with the same fire for reaching the lost with the good news that I have.  My desire is to see every ministry team flourish as they go forward in faith, knowing that God is their right hand (Psalm 138:7).

Will I always be here at First Baptist Atlantic Beach?  Only God knows that answer.  My pledge to all of you is simple, while I am your pastor, you will always get my best and I will always be leading you forward as we journey together through the valleys and on the mountain tops.  I will challenge you to live the life that is pleasing to God so that one day we will rejoice together in Heaven after hearing Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  God Bless You All, and I hope you will join me on this All In Journey.

My Fasting Journey

Forty (40) days ago (April 11, 2017), I began a journey that I intended to last only twenty-one (21) days.  I had promised God I would fast and pray during the twenty-one days leading up to the beginning of our scheduled revival services.  Up to this point in my Christian life the longest I had ever gone was eight (8) days in fasting and prayer.  This was going to be interesting if I was to make it thirteen (13) days longer.

It really got put into high gear on Monday, April 10th, at our small group meeting for weight loss support.  The man leading the discussion said something very simple, but extremely profound and it was something I had never done.  He asked, “How often do we pray about our appetite?”  My answer was that I had never prayed about my appetite, as a matter of fact, I only ask God to bless whatever it is I eat, but never to give me wisdom and discernment over the desire to eat.  I went away from our meeting and repented with a renewal in my heart for what God alone could do.  Let me add right here that I did not go into this fast for weight loss, I went into this fast for revival (and some other issues I needed guidance from Him about).  Whenever you fast, there will be some weight loss that happens as a side effect.

Having repented, I awoke early Tuesday morning and the first thing I heard from God was “What are you hungry for?”  I begin to read His Word again with a renewed passion and spent time meditating over verses that became magnified on the pages.  I opened my prayer notebook and prayed over everything in there.  Before I knew it, hours had passed and I was full to the brim.  Of course, this was just day one and meal one, but I could feel God was beginning to already enforce “He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD” (Dt 8:3) and “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt 6:33).  Over the next eight days (my previous longest fasting period), there was very little, if any, hunger pains causing me to want to end the fast before the twenty-one days were up.  They were only reminders to pray or read more and God was doing some wonderful things around me and my church.

I was thinking more clearly, my physical strength grew stronger, I was not stressed about my final semester in college as I prepared to graduate.  I was seeing answers to prayers, I saw God work miracles in my church family and bring people to the altar after I preached.  I stood amazed in His presence and I was overwhelmed with emotion.  Before I knew it, May 1 arrived and it was time to begin revival (this was the day I thought my fast would end).  That first night I felt the Spirit of God like never before.  I could barely move or speak when our guest preacher was done.  I don’t believe I even slept that evening when I got home, all I could do was worship.  God told me that He was not done speaking or showing things to me yet and to keep going in my fast until forty (40) days where ended.

So here I am today (May 20, 2017), and my forty days are ending.  God has been so good to me.  He has fed me with food I never thought possible.  He has renewed my strength; He has lifted me up with wings like eagles, He has caused me to run and not be weary, and walk and not faint (Is 40:31).  My love for Jesus is renewed and refreshed.  My love for my beautiful wife is also renewed and refreshed (I have fallen more in love with her during this period, more in love than when we first met).  I cannot wait to share with the leadership and members of the church all that God revealed to me during these past forty days.  The future is going to be wonderful!  I can honestly say that I have never felt better in my entire life, and all the glory goes to God alone, through the atoning work of His Son and My Savior, Jesus!  God is good…All the time.  If you are not fasting, let me encourage you to do so…it can be done, I am living proof.

Resolved

In my 13 years of pastoring I have learned a lot.  I believe one of the greatest things God has taught me involves being resolved.  There are many things I have not resolved yet, but one thing I have resolved is what I have to do as a shepherd of the church God has placed me in.

Let me explain.

  • I have resolved that the Lord is my Shepherd and because of that I know that God will supply all that I could possibly need according to His riches in heaven.
  • I have resolved to lead you to the Lord so you can make the choice to make Him your Shepherd too
  • I have resolved to have you lie down in good fertile green pastures
  • I have resolved to lead you to the good, clean, still waters
  • I am resolved to help you experience the restoration of your soul through the wonderful grace of Jesus
  • I have resolved to lead you on the paths of righteousness to help you in your sanctification process that Jesus has provided (for His name’s sake)
  • I have resolved to do my very best for you and your family when death has come into your world. To ease the pain because there is no fear with Jesus
  • I have resolved to anoint your heard with the oil the shepherds use to rid the sheep of pest that irritate them along the journey. I will always do my best to anoint you so the journey is pleasant for you

 

Even though I have resolved to do the things mentioned above, I have also resolved the following:

  • I have resolved that some do not want the Lord as their shepherd no matter what and there are times I must shake the dust off my feet and move on
  • I have resolved that even though being lead to green pastures, some refuse to lie down in the good green fields and opt for the dirty mud holes
  • I have resolved that even good, clean, still waters will not cause some to drink refreshing water, they will choice to drink nasty, parasite infested water out of sheer stubbornness
  • I have resolved that some sheep care little to nothing about restoration of the soul, caring more about confrontation and agitation with other sheep
  • I have resolved that some sheep will go off the paths being lead down
  • I have resolved that even though the anointing oil is for the good of the sheep to rid them of rests that bite them and irritate them, some will run and rub it off as quickly as it is applied.

 

With the good and the aggravations that come with being a shepherd and serving God as the pastor of his church, I can truly say:

My cup runs over, goodness and mercy are following me every day of my life; and one day soon I will dwell in the house of the LORD, Forever.  I wouldn’t trade being your pastor for anything in this world.  It brings me great joy to shepherd you all.

 

In His Love,

Pastor Greg

Revival

Well our scheduled revival services have ended for the year.  I am hoping that those who came were blessed by the great preaching we heard each week.  I know some sermons were “hard” on the toes and maybe even the ears, but when you take the words preached and compare them against the infallible Word of God, you will see the truth in those words.

I must confess I was a little disappointed in the attendance of our church members to come to at least one of the revival services, but I am learning to move past those who do not come and pray for those that do come to respond in obedience to God as He speaks into their hearts.  Don’t get me wrong, we had good attendance each night and other churches were represented also and that thrilled our guest preachers.  Let me remind you that revival must begin in the house of God and with God’s people.

There is no doubt we are in the latter days before Jesus raptures His church out of this world and thus the beginning of the end of this world as we know it.  We are seeing in the church the prophetic word of Paul to Timothy For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables (2 Ti 4:3–4) and Paul to the church of Ephesus that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting (Eph 4:14).

My prayer, for however longer God keeps me here and in the ministry, is that His church would awaken and be the church that Jesus laid down His life for.  We can complain and moan about how bad things are, but that will not fix anything (other than give you ulcers and high blood pressure).  We can blame others for our silence because we have fallen into fear of retaliation (we are not being persecuted…yet).  We can continue in our routine / tradition believing that everything is okay as long as nothing changes in my preference of worship services (please go back and read “I Am A Church Member”).  We can cling to our bitterness, anger, un-forgiveness, ego / pride, and even living with our sin, as if it has no effect in our walk and fellowship with God.  Let me remind you what happened as soon as Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Their walk and fellowship with God were broken.

So as we end this year’s revival services, I will leave you with a question…is your walk and fellowship with God all that it should be or is there a hindrance that you must deal with so that God can bring revival to you and have it spread to others.?  While you contemplate that, how about replaying the sermon from Dr Miller in your head again and understand the significance of Forgiveness.

I love you all and I want to see the very best come your way as you grow and serve God right here at FBCAB.

In His Love,

Pastor Greg

Words

There is an old hymn I would like to share with you that some of you may have sung many years ago.  I know I did growing up, but I grew up in a different denominational church than the one I worship and serve in now.  The title of the song is “Angry Words”, but I have replaced that for this note with “Hurtful Words”, because we need to know that words are powerful and when they leave our mouth (or we hit send via a text or social media) they “hit” there intended target.

Let us be reminded of the words of Jesus “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mt 12:34–37)

 

“1. Hurtful words! O let them never,

From the tongue unbridled slip,

May the heart’s best impulse ever,

Check them ere they soil the lip.

 

  1. Love is much too pure and holy,

Friendship is too sacred far,

For a moment’s reckless folly,

Thus to desolate and mar.

 

  1. Hurtful words are lightly spoken,

Bitterest thoughts are rashly stirred,

Brightest links of life are broken,

By a single hurtful word.

 

Chorus

Love one another thus saith the Savior,

Children obey the Father’s blest command,

Love one another thus saith the Savior,

’Tis the Father’s blest command.”

 

Worth It

Many times we hear people say how “unworthy” they feel, even as a child of God.  We particular mention this while doing things in their service to God.  Personally it makes me cringe when people say this.  I believe we say this, because we have heard others before us say it and thus it must make us more holy.  After all the person(s) you heard this from were “seasoned” believers and you just wanted to emulate them.

So why do I cringe at these words, because the only thing that is unworthy about you in the sight of God are our attempts to earn righteousness and salvation.  Our works before God are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) because we are not spotless and we are not sinless but that does not make you an unworthy person.  As a matter of fact God, even while we were / are doing all these things “attempting” to gain His acceptance and earn our entrance into heaven, says you are / were worth it.  His Word tells us that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

No greater love has anyone ever shown you than this love of God.  In looking down upon us, God saw us in our rebellion, in our rejection of His goodness, and in our mockery even of the gift He gave us.  He had the right to say “yes, I agree, you are unworthy of becoming my child”, but He didn’t.  Instead God looked at you through the redemptive work that His Son would do at Calvary and said “Let there be light, and there was light” and by doing so, God says you are worth it.

Why do I do things for God and His Kingdom?  Because He is worth it and He has declared me worth it by sending Jesus!  Grace, Grace, Marvelous Grace.  If you get to “feeling” unworthy, remember who much God says you are worth and when you hear someone declare they are unworthy, remind them that God declared them worth it.